News for the week of May 13

Video of Monet painting at Giverny

This incredible video clip from 1915 allows you a brief look inside how this man made such fabulous works of art. It's about 2:45 minutes long.

Letter from France: Eating in Paris can be cheaper than eating in Grand Rapids, Michigan

At one point early on in our latest trip to Paris I had a revelation.  When I received the dinner bill at Iovines on rue de Bretagne I figured it came to about $72. Since the meal consisted of fairly basic components that we had eaten many times in the USA I thought it would be interesting to do a cost comparison with a place that served similar food. I chose Licari’s, a pizza place in Grand Rapids where we have eaten from time to time. This is not a scientific study and I urge you to try this for yourself.

Here’s what I learned.

  • Licari: 2 cocktails, medium pizza, bottle of pinot noir = $74
  • Iovine: 2 cocktails, similar size pizza and a bottle of Valpolicella = $72

While both meals appear to be comparable the US version doesn’t take into account the tip. And at 20% that adds another $14 to the Licari bill. Therefore, eating a similar meal in Grand Rapids costs $88 to the Paris version of $72. 

This comparison doesn’t take into account those attributes that can’t be quantified: 

  • location (Paris vs Grand Rapids), eating in a bistro-like setting versus a large, loud room with TV monitors everywhere;
  • the quality of the service: the wait staff at Iovines spoke Italian and were clearly professional "waiters" while the manager at Licari’s didn’t even know what a digestivo was. 

Of course there are many places in Paris where it would cost several body parts to eat a meal. And there are many other restaurants where the service is lousy and the food mediocre. 

But it is has been our great, good fortune over the years to have successfully steered away from such dens of culinary iniquity. In fact, we have found many other places like Iovines which simply reaffirms our belief that American food is no cheaper than eating in Paris and often more so since you’re often getting a lower quality of service.

~ Steve Soper, Lille, France, 11 May 2018

AFGR Book Club

Our next book club meeting is May 15 at 5:30pm at Schuler Books on 28th Street in Grand Rapids and the selection is The Mistress Of Paris: The 19th-Century Courtesan Who Built an Empire on a Secret by Catherine Hewitt, the story of  19th century Parisian courtesan Comtesse Valtesse de la Bigne. For more information contact Marijke Wiersema.

According to The New York Times Book Review, “A gorgeous, smart, ambitious, hard-working, steely autodidact and businesswoman whose product was herself, Valtesse would be totally at home in our self-branding society.” 

Detroit River Cruise and French History

AF Detroit chapter is offering a cruise along the Detroit river focusing on French history in eastern Michigan on June 24. The commentary is in French and English. For details visit the Alliance Française de Detroit. More information.

How well do you know Paris? Today we look at the 20th arrondissement.


1. For what reason were the remains of Moliére, La Fontaine, and the lovers Héloïse and Abélard transferred with great pomp to the Père-Lachaise cemetery in 1817?

A. The church refused to welcome these sordid characters in a parish cemetery or chapel.
B. Parisians wanted to see their favorite celebrities resting in the most prestigious of cemeteries.
C. To promote the new cemetery and attract “clients.”

2. What invention did Claude Chappe test on July 12, 1793, on the Belleville Hill, the highest point in Paris?

A. The bicycle brake.
B. The hot air balloon.
C. The telegraph.

3. What is the address of the Père-Lachaise Cemetery?
A. Passage d’Enfer (Hell’s Passage).
B. Rue du Paradis (Heaven’s Street).
C. Rue du Repos (Resting Street).

4. What was the nickname of the Parisian thugs who made the law on the streets of Belleville at the start of the 20th century?

A. Apaches.
B. Redskins.
C. Sioux.

5. What small-time occupation was practiced, at the beginning of the 20th century, at the gate of the Père-Lachaise Cemetery?

A. Dog-sitting.
B. The sale of tissues.
C. The recitation of prayers on demand.

Answers can be found at the end of the newsletter.

Travel in France: The Old Gothard Pass

Answers: 1. C, for promotional reasons; 2. C, telegraph; 3. C, rue du Repos; 4 A Apaches; 5. A, dog-sitting.